Mariners Insider Blog

Cruz gets No. 300 and drives in five as Mariners halt skid

Yep, it’s gone. Nelson Cruz hit his 300th career homer in leading the Mariners to a 7-2 victory over Oakland.
Yep, it’s gone. Nelson Cruz hit his 300th career homer in leading the Mariners to a 7-2 victory over Oakland. AP

The marquee moment Friday, when the Mariners snapped their eight-game home losing streak, occurred in the eighth inning.

Nelson Cruz crushed a three-run homer that propelled the Mariners to a 7-2 victory over the Oakland Athletics. It was Cruz missile, too, a 433-foot drive to left-center field.

It was also the 300th homer of his career and prompted a curtain call from the crowd of 22,213 at Safeco Field. Cruz obliged with a brief wave and big smile from the dugout steps.

"That song helped," Cruz said. "The Segura song."

Oh, right. The song.

Every player used "Que Fuee" by El Alfa as their walkup song Friday. Why? It’s Jean Segura’s walkup song, and he was leading the American League in hitting.

Whatever works.

Cruz also had a pair of runs on singles earlier in the game and now leads the majors with 68 RBIs, but two other points to consider.

***Point one: Lefty James Paxton (7-3) came up big over seven innings in precisely the sort of start the Mariners needed to pull them out of their recent funk.

"Just getting more comfortable," he said. "Used the changeup again tonight, and it’s feeling good. Moving the fastball around a little bit. Then I humped it up in the end a little bit to get through those last two (innings)."

***Point two: And just-reminded All-Star Robinson Cano scored the go-ahead run on a short sacrifice fly in the third inning with his legs — and his smarts.

"After it being reported that our baserunning is so bad," Servais said, "it was nice to see it. Hopefully, that helps our numbers. It wasn’t a very deep fly ball. He came off the bag and kept his head up.

"We’ve talked about keeping your head up and taking what's there. If it’s not there, don’t push the envelope. It was a nice play."

The Mariners won for just the third time in 12 games.

Paxton wobbled in a two-run third inning but otherwise had little trouble in his seven innings. He gave up just two hits while striking out nine and walking three in a 109-pitch outing.

"Paxton was really good tonight," Servais said. "I thought we saw a different James Paxton in the last two innings. He just went and turned up the dial. That’s what top-of-the-rotation starting pitching does."

Nick Vincent inherited a 3-2 lead to start the eighth and worked a one-two-three inning, although Marcus Semien sent left fielder Ben Gamel to the wall for the final out.

Then Cruz happened.

The Athletics went to their bullpen for Liam Hendriks after Oakland lefty Sean Manaea (7-5) gave up three runs in seven innings.

Danny Valencia drove Hendriks’ first pitch into right field for a double. It was Valencia’s third hit. Cano then worked back from a 1-2 hole for a walk before Cruz unloaded on a first-pitch slider.

The Mariners added one more run before the inning ended.

Marc Rzepczynski and Steve Cishek closed out the victory in a non-save situation.

The Mariners grabbed a 1-0 lead on three straight one-out singles in the first inning by Valencia, Cano and Cruz, but the chance for a bigger inning slipped away when Mitch Haniger grounded into a double play.

Paxton retired the first seven Athletics before Matt Joyce poked a one-out single to left in the third inning. Ryan Lavarnway flied out to right, but Joyce advanced to second on a Haniger throwing error.

After Rajai Davis worked back from a 1-2 hole for a walk, Semien yanked a grounder just fair past third that then scooted into foul ground and caromed off the wall and away from Gamel for a two-run double.

Oakland led 2-1, but the Mariners answered with two runs later in the inning. Cruz had another RBI single, and Cano scored on a sacrifice fly by Kyle Seager.

It stayed 3-2 until the eighth inning.

PLAY OF THE GAME: Cano appeared to deke Oakland center fielder Rajai Davis on Seager’s sacrifice fly in the third inning. Cano tagged and seemed to bluff going but took off when Davis was slow to throw the ball.

PLUS: Valencia went 3-for-4, which marked his eighth game this season with at least three hits…Paxton’s seven victories are tied with Ariel Miranda for the club lead…Vincent has not allowed a run this season in 18 innings over 19 home appearances…Haniger had two hits for the second straight game.

MINUS: Mike Zunino was 0-for-3 with two strikeouts. He is 3-for-33 with 13 strikeouts in his last 11 games…Rzepczynski faced just one hitter, Yonder Alonso, before exiting in the ninth inning. It was a left-on-left situation, and Alonso hit the first pitch for a single.

STAT PACK: Cruz is the seventh player to hit his 300th career homer while playing for the Mariners. The others are Willie Horton (1979), Ken Griffey Jr. (1998), Jay Buhner (2000), Edgar Martinez (2004), Richie Sexson (2008) and Raul Ibanez (2013). Cano should join the group at some point this season. He has 295.

QUOTABLE: If it’s up to Cruz — and who is going to argue with him? — the Mariners all be using Segura’s walkup song again on Saturday.

"Definitely," he said. "I mean, I heard some guys are tired of it already, but I’m going to dream with that song in my head."

SHORT HOPS: Joyce went 1-for-2 and was hit by a pitch. He has reached base safely at least once in 26 of his last 27 games…Semien went 1-for-4 and has hits in eight straight games at Safeco Field. He is 11-for-31 (.354) in that stretch…the Athletics still hold a 5-4 edge in the season series.

ON DECK: The Mariners and Athletics continue their four-game series at 7:10 p.m. Saturday at Safeco Field. Rookie right-hander Andrew Moore (1-1 with a 3.60 ERA) will oppose Oakland right-hander Chris Smith (4-3, 3.16 at Triple-A Nashville).

Smith will be recalled prior to the game after the Athletics make a corresponding space-clearing roster move. He is replacing Jhrael Cotton, who was placed on the disabled list because of a thumb blister.

The game can be seen on Root Sports Northwest and heard on 710 ESPN and the Mariners Radio Network.

Bob Dutton: @TNT_Mariners